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Currently | The Books In My Suitcase

currently april 23 2015

Briefly | I AM LEAVING ON VACATION TODAY! Have I mentioned this trip before? Ha! Anyway, my sister and I are leaving tonight for a three week trip that will take us to England and Greece. It feels totally surreal, but I could not be more excited. Those photos all look a little depressing, but they’re accurate — it was a really long week to get here.

Eating and Drinking | At the moment, nothing, but we’re heading out soon to spend some time with our grandmas and have lunch at Olive Garden. I’m in the mood to stuff my face with pasta.

Reading | The only thing I could put in my brain this week was comics, so that’s what I did, finishing up volumes two and three of Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn. It’s only a 15 issue series packaged in three trades, so definitely easy to pick up. I thought it was a really charming, heartfelt love story. If I’m not too tired, my two possible plane reads are Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey (nonfiction, about the lost history of the aristocratic Fitzwilliam family). I love rich people drama.

Packing | Speaking of books, I suppose people who saw this Instagram post might be wondering which books made the cut into my suitcase. In addition to Wolf Hall and Black Diamonds I also brought Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters and My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. That still feels like too many books — I know I’m going to buy a bunch — but I couldn’t pick.

Watching | Since I wasn’t reading, I did a lot of watching — mostly finishing up a mediocre SyFy series, Alphas, mixed with a goofy Comedy Central show, Another Period. I really like that one, it’s kind of Downtown Abbey meets Inside Amy Schumer (feminist and crass, following the shenanigans of a rich family, available on Hulu).

Listening | I’ve got a couple of audio books queued up for the trip, What If? by Randall Monroe and Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Those represent my two audio weaknesses, quirky nonfiction and young adult dystopian drama.

Blogging | This week I shared some of my favorite resources for finding good nonfiction. Definitely check out the comments on that one — there were some great suggestions.

Hating | Normally I’m a really good sleeper — trust me, I know how lucky I am in that respect — but between anxiety, stress and excitement, I slept terrible most of the week. That made me particularly emotional and short-tempered, especially with the boyfriend, which I’m sorry about.

Loving | Speaking of the boyfriend, he deserves a special shout out. He’s holding down the home front while I’m away, didn’t make me feel bad (at all) about going on a huge trip without him, and was super supportive while I was losing my mind and working a ton the last few weeks. This will be the longest we’ll have gone without seeing each other since we started dating almost seven years ago so… yeah. I’ll miss him.

Loving II | Book Riot’s new Read or Die t-shirt might be my favorite thing ever.

Anticipating | London! Bath! Athens! Poros! A little over 12 hours from now I’ll be on a plane and heading out. I don’t anticipate blogging much, so if you want to follow our adventures I suggest following me on Instagram. I’m hoping to post regularly there and of course I’ll share some highlights in a post when I get back. Bon voyage!


nonfiction resources

It’s no secret that I love to make book lists… sometimes even more than I love reading books on those book lists. Today I wanted to share some of the places I go to get ideas for my book lists as as well as where I look for recommendations for new, excellent nonfiction. None of these are foolproof, but they definitely can provide some ideas for books to look into further.

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalists

Book awards lists can be pretty hit and miss, but over the years I’ve discovered a couple of award categories that reliably select books that are in my wheelhouse. One is the Pulitzer Prize General Nonfiction list, which tends to award books with excellent reporting and strong writing. The National Book Award also, generally, has an interesting shortlist for nonfiction. I’m sure there are others, but these are the two I tend to gravitate towards most.

New Nonfiction from Citizen Reader

In February, Sarah at Citizen Reader started a weekly series called New Nonfiction where she lists upcoming titles with brief commentary on each one. Since I’m not always up on what is coming out right now, this list is often a good reminder of books I had on my radar or books I want to look into further.

Real Stories series from ABC-CLIO

Another resource that Sarah helped turn me on to is the Real Stories series. This is a series of reference books designed primarily for librarian’s doing reader’s advisory that offer a wealth of nonfiction suggestions based on reading tastes. There are offerings in Women’s Nonfiction, Investigative Writing, Biographies, Memoirs, Travel, and Food Lit. I’ve used Going Places, the book in the series on travel writing, quite a bit in my nonfiction research. These are a little more difficult to find (and probably too expensive for a personal collection), but might be available at your local library if you don’t mind quizzing a librarian.

New Books! from Book Riot

New Books! is a weekly newsletter of book recommendations curated by Liberty Hardy. Liberty reads a ton — reading truly is her super power — so there are always a variety of books to check out (both fiction and nonfiction). Liberty and Rebecca Joines Schinsky also host a weekly podcast on new books — All the Books! — but I haven’t listened to it much yet.

Specific Publishing Houses and Imprints

There are also some publishing houses and imprints — departments with a specific mission of focus — that I look at for great nonfiction. Some of my favorites that do almost exclusively nonfiction are part of the Perseus Books GroupBasic BooksPublicAffairs and Nation Books. Graywolf Press, a Minnesota publisher, does an annual Nonfiction Prize — I’ve loved many of the past winners. Other publishers that I’ve seen great, readable nonfiction from include Harper, Picador, Riverhead and Spiegel and Grau. But those are huge houses. If you find a book that really speaks to you, check the publisher and then visit their backlist — you’ll likely find similar books worth checking out.

Books About Books

I’m a sucker for books about books. I love reading them, and I love gathering potential new books to read from their recommendations. A couple that I’ve been getting ideas from recently are Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores and (more specifically for nonfiction) The Mother of All Book Lists by William Patrick Martin. My local librarian pointed this one out to me because she knows I love nonfiction — I love that it includes recommendations for all ages.

What are some of your favorite resources for finding new books, specifically new nonfiction?

Photo Credit: Orin Zebest via Flickr Creative Commons.

Currently | The Final Countdown

currently august 16 2015

Briefly | One week until we leave for London! There’s more going on than that, but that’s about all I can focus on right now.

Time and Place | 8:15ish on my couch, thinking about breakfast and getting on with my day — I have to head up to our county fair this morning to take photos at a few events.

Eating and Drinking | Breakfast will include black tea, hard boiled eggs, a nectarine and some homegrown carrots (thanks, coworker with a garden!).

Reading | I finished 11/22/63 by Stephen King last Sunday afternoon, yay! I really enjoyed it — definitely a book that gives you a sense of King’s style without being too, well, Stephen King.

Since then I’ve had a hard time settling in with anything that requires a ton of attention. I did finish up Thor, Vol. 1: Goddess of Thunder by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman (fun but not my favorite comic ever) and The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips. I liked this one a lot, even if I’m not sure that I totally understood what happened. It was sort of like if The Yellow Wallpaper meets The Trial, except more fun.

I’m not sure what I’ll try to read today, if anything. I’ve been carrying around both In the Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib and Where Everybody Looks Like Me by Ron Stodghill (Sept. 22 from Harper), but haven’t gotten far with either.

Watching | The boyfriend and I went to see Trainwreck, the new Amy Schumer/Judd Apatow movie, last night. We both agreed it was very funny, and had a particularly great performance from, of all people, LeBron James.

Blogging | This week I shared my responses to a reading habits survey I borrowed from other bloggers. I hope you’ll take it yourself and share responses — I think these are always a lot of fun.

Promoting | I don’t share a lot of writing from my day job here, but I wrote a piece this week that I’m proud of — a look at a new specialized court process, drug court, that is helping people with serious addictions. It’s changing lives in our community, and I’m really grateful for the people who shared their stories with me so I could write this piece.

Hating | My Secret Agent Gnome keychain broke! I don’t know where his body ended up, which is a bummer. Sorry, old friend.

Loving | In a week I’m going on a much needed vacation! For three weeks! I can’t quite believe it yet.

Avoiding | I haven’t started seriously packing, so I need to get on that pretty soon. It’s kind of overwhelming to think about everything I need to bring to be away from home that long.

Wanting | I’m hoping the humidity will take it down a notch today since I am going to be at the fair most of the early afternoon.

Anticipating | In a week I’m going on a much needed vacation! For three weeks! I can’t quite believe it yet!

Happy Sunday, everyone! What are you reading today? 


Reading Habits Survey: How Do You Read?

Last week, Florinda (The 3R’s Blog) shared her responses to a survey about reading habits — not the kinds of books you like to read, but how you actually read them. I thought it was fun, so I’m taking the survey myself!

reading habits survey

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

I typically read in two places, on my couch or in my favorite chair. They’re both upstairs in my living room, which is also the room with our main tv. In the summer that works great — the boyfriend spends a lot of time in the basement where it’s cooler — but in the winter we have some conflicts over reading versus watching. I’m hoping to find space for a reading nook in my office this winter.

2. Do you use a bookmark or a random piece of paper?

I usually use post-it notes for bookmarks. They’re convenient, cheap, and don’t fall out when I lug books all over in my purse. I have been using this cute mustache bookmark for 11/22/63, but that book doesn’t leave the house so I don’t worry about losing my place.

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter or a certain amount of pages?

I like to stop at a natural breaking point — the end of a chapter, or maybe a scene change in the middle of a chapter. But if it’s late at night and I’m falling asleep, I’ll stop at the bottom of a page or something less obvious.

4. Do you eat or drink while reading?

I drink a lot of tea and, more recently, a lot of water. I like to snack when I read, but I have a hard time reading while eating a meal.

5. Do you watch TV or listen to music while reading?

I can only listen to music that doesn’t have words or music that is new to me while reading. If I recognize a song I get distracted! I have a hard time reading when the tv is on, unless I put in headphones to block out the sound.

6. Do you read one book at a time or several at once?

I’m typically a one or two book reader. I like to have fiction and nonfiction going at the same time and often also have an audio book in progress (but I guess I don’t count that one since it’s a different format).

7. Do you prefer to read at home or anywhere?

I can read just about anywhere, but I’m a homebody. I don’t actively go other places to read, but will pick up a book if I’m out and have time to read.

8. Do you read out loud or silently?

Silently. I used to read out loud in the car when the boyfriend was driving, but now we use audio books or podcasts to keep us occupied.

9. Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I am not really concerned about spoilers, so I will sometimes skip ahead to answer a burning question (particularly if it’s a love triangle question, since I find those annoying but addicting). Most of the time, though, I don’t skip ahead.

10. Do you break the spine or keep it like new?

I don’t break spines very often, but I guess I never feel like I have to in order to enjoy a book. I try to keep my books in decent shape — no bent covers or pages falling out — but they’re certainly not perfect.

11. Do you write in your books?

Not anymore. If I want to make notes, I usually do it in a notebook or on my phone because it’s more convenient for looking at when I want to write a review. But I do love finding marginalia in old books — it’s super fun.


currently august 9 2015

Time and Place | It’s just about 8:30 a.m. and I’m sitting in my favorite chair, windows open so I can hear the rain outside. It’s supposed to be by storming on and off most of the day, which I’m taking as an excuse to just stay inside.

Eating and Drinking | Basic black tea and a yogurt. I work up this morning feeling sick-ish with a headache, so I’m exercising some caution. I’ve been feeling off most of the week though. I blame work stress and the humidity.

Reading | I’m making progress with 11/22/63 by Stephen King — I passed the 600 pages mark just before I went to bed last night! I also started a new comics series, Shutter, thanks to this recommendation post from Panels. It’s delightfully weird — if a tad confusing through the first volume — and definitely has the same vibe as one of my favorite series, Saga.

Watching | Yesterday, the boyfriend and I finally sat down and watched Jon Stewart’s final episode of The Daily Show. I followed that up with the final episode of Friends, ending my epic 10-season binge watch. What’s next?

Listening | Spotify has a new feature for finding new music, Discover Weekly, which sounds sort of like a custom mix tape based on what other songs and playlists you’re listening to. My mix today is so eclectic, I just love it.

Blogging | It’s been a good week on the blog. I shared my reading recap from June and July, followed by some thoughts on comfortable and uncomfortable narratives inspired by Just Mercy and Ghettoside.

Promoting | This New York Times piece on what happens when people are released from prison is great.

Hating | For my birthday, the boyfriend agreed to do the dishes for a month. My month reprieve from chores ended yesterday… which is a bummer!

Loving | Jenny and I leave for our trip in 14 days! Also, ice cream. Dairy Queen has a mini Rolos blizzard that’s pretty awesome.

Avoiding | I have a lot of work to get done at work before I can head out of the country. I went into the office for a couple hours yesterday afternoon to get some writing done and I probably should go in today but… it’s raining and I’m tired.

Wanting | I could use a break in the humidity. It’s been brutal the last couple days, despite some thunderstorms that should have helped things cool off. Our county fair is this week and boy, would I love it if the temperatures were reasonable.

Anticipating | We’re leaving for London in 14 days! There are things I should be anticipating before that but, let’s be real, that’s all I can think about at the moment.

Happy Sunday everyone! What are you reading today?